COLUMBIA — The shanked punt hurt, but it only hurt three points. South Carolina went into the locker room trailing by 10 instead of seven, but in either case, the Gamecocks had fought their way back in the game after spotting Georgia the first 14 points.
It was doable. The upset was still doable. Get a stop, get the offense readjusted (mostly get the receivers’ hands readjusted) and try to make it a one-score game in the fourth. Then who knows what could happen?
USC never got to Locations B and C on the Road Map To Beat Georgia. The only stop out of the locker room was Georgia receiver Mecole Hardman stopping in the end zone, placing his fists on his hips and staring down the Williams-Brice Stadium crowd.
“I think so,” a visibly frustrated T.J. Brunson said when asked if he thought some of his teammates accepted the result too early. “During the second half, a lot of guys just didn’t understand the grind of the game.”
There was miscommunication, plays where the front seven was doing something that didn’t match what the secondary was doing. There were missed tackles. And there was the fact that Georgia is really, really good.
“They were good, but we’re just as good,” Brunson said. “And getting those guys to understand. On our side of the ball, just getting those guys to understand it’s a four-quarter game.”
The Bulldogs scored on their first three possessions of the second half. They probably could have done a lot more, but there was no need. They saw what Brunson saw.
The Gamecocks were done.
“We had some miscommunication. I would tie that into the urgency and the focus of what you got to do,” USC coach Will Muschamp said. “We had some issues in camp with that. It didn’t show up as much in the first game.”
It did against Georgia. And while the next opponent (Marshall on Saturday) doesn’t stand to present a challenge like last week, USC has to figure out how to get the calls, attitudes and energies right and keep them there.
“It’s the second game of the season. We got a long way to go,” Brunson said. “I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, I just want those guys to understand — it’s a long game. It’s always a long game.”
USC will also be without another of its leaders going forward, as D.J. Wonnum is sidelined for “about a month,” Muschamp said. Brunson, the middle linebacker, has always been the man making the calls for USC on the field but now will have to make more.
“That’s all it boiled down to, urgency, being vocal, getting the calls in to everyone,” he said, while also promising tackling drill after tackling drill this week. “I feel like everything that happened on our side of the ball had a lot to do with us.”
The Gamecocks have scarce time to repair themselves.